Your white blood cells can protect your mouth from the damaging effects of bacteria, but diabetes damages your white blood cells when your blood sugar levels aren't well controlled. This leaves diabetics at an increased risk of tooth decay and oral infections that are caused by bacteria. Regular dental checkups can allow your dentist to spot the early signs of oral health problems, which can prevent the need for tooth extraction and antibiotics.
Being aware of the oral health problems that can occur when you have diabetes can help you know what to look for when you're cleaning your teeth and what to mention to your dentist. Here's an overview of four oral health problems diabetics have an increased risk of developing.
In addition to your body's white blood cells being unable to fight off the bacteria that causes gum disease, diabetics often don't have sufficient blood flow to their mouth. The nutrients in blood play an important part in fighting off infection and healing wounds, but diabetics can develop thickened blood vessels, meaning blood flow is restricted. This creates an environment that gum disease can thrive in, so don't ignore the symptoms of gum disease, which include swollen and bleeding gums, bad breath and loose teeth.
Oral thrush is a fungal infection, and impaired white blood cells leave you susceptible to fungal infections. Additionally, the fungus that causes thrush thrives on sugar and the sugar levels in your saliva increase when your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled. The main symptom of thrush is white patches on your tongue, but this can also be caused by other conditions such as leukoplakia, so don't be tempted to self-diagnose.
Diabetes can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth. Having a dry mouth doesn't sound like a serious problem, but saliva offers protection against some types of bacteria. Saliva is naturally alkaline and bacteria can die off in alkaline environments, so insufficient levels of saliva allow bacteria to thrive in the acidic environment of your mouth. If your mouth is acidic you're more likely to develop tooth decay, mouth ulcers and receding gums.
Restricted blood flow to your mouth doesn't just put you at an increased risk of gum disease; it also causes wounds to heal more slowly than they normally would. This means wounds for dental procedures tend to be exposed to greater levels of bacteria, and this leaves you susceptible to developing oral infections.
If you're concerned about your oral health or haven't had a check-up in a while, schedule an appointment with a dental clinic like Fairfield Dental Healthcare Clinic as soon as possible. They can give you tips on looking after your oral health when you have diabetes and treat problems before you're at risk of losing a tooth.